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Update on this topic:

Pentacle Finally Accepted For Veterans Headstones! May 8, 2007

This is a landmark decision folks. At long last the Wiccan pentacle has been added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers, according to a settlement announced Monday. For more read this CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/23/wiccan.grave.ap/index.html



VA Still Trying To Block The Wiccan Symbol For Verteran's Headstones
By Leeanen Sidhe

The Department of Veterans Affairs seems once again to be trying to find excuses and ways to block the acceptance of the pentacle as the one of the religious symbols that can be placed on the head stones and memorial markers of Wiccan veterans.

The VA has proposed a new set of procedures for emblems of belief approval for use on VA-issued memorial headstones, markers, and plaques honoring deceased veterans. Many pagan groups and in particular Circle Sanctuary listed the following concerns about the new procedures. These are from their web site http://www.circlesanctuary.org/liberty/veteranpentacle/VARuleComment.htm:

• There is still no requirement that the VA make any decision on an emblem of belief application.

• There are no time limits for decision making on applications.

• These proposed procedures are worded in such a way to legalize the VA's unconstitutional process of picking and choosing which religions and belief systems to accommodate and which symbols to approve for inclusion on the veteran grave markers it issues. For example, the proposed regulations state:

"VA intends to preclude the addition of any emblem that would have an adverse impact on the dignity and solemnity of cemeteries honoring those who served the Nation."

• There is no appeal process -- the proposed procedures state that the VA's decision is final.

"Essentially, if these new procedures are adopted and go into effect, the Pentacle could still be kept in limbo with no decision being made at all, and it possibly could even be rejected should a VA official deem our symbol not appropriate for state and federal veteran cemeteries. Symbols for other religions, including other forms of Paganism, may also be kept in limbo or be rejected."

When I look at the list of the 39 religious symbols that may be placed on a veteran's head stone I see at least 17 that are associated with the Christian faith. There are also several symbols for oriental faiths such as Buddhist, Hindu, Konko-Kyo, Sufism and Muslim faiths. There is also one for the Unitarians, Humanist, and even one for Atheists. I do see a new one, the Native American Church of North America, which I assume covers all Native American earth based beliefs and that is very encouraging. However, there is not a single symbol for any of the European earth based (Pagan) faiths.

According to 2005 Defense Department statistics, more than 1,800 active-duty service members identify themselves as Wiccans. Those are just the ones that feel free to disclose their faith, there may be more who choose to be registered under other faiths for fear of persecution from an obviously religious biased military.

These men and women have been asked to make the ultimate sacrifice to fight and possibly die for the so called freedoms of our nation yet they are denied by this government agency one of the primary rights of the first amendment to our constitution, the right to freedom of religion.

As an American, a daughter of a now deceased veteran and a practicing Wiccan I find this deplorable and unconscionable.

The US military has acknowledged the Wiccan faith and has even issued "Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains," that was first published in 1978 to it's military Chaplins so that they may better provide council and comfort to it's Wiccan soldiers. If the Wiccan faith has been acknowledged in this way since 1978 then why has this acknowledgment not been made complete by allowing the Pentacle, the five pointed star enclosed within a circle, to be added to it accepted religious symbol list?

I think it's far past time that the American military and the VA stop dragging their feet on this issue and give the Wiccan men and woman who serve fight and die for this country the respect they are due and allow the symbol of our faith to placed on their head stones and memorial markers.

For the complete list of VA approved religious symbols visit this site:
http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hm/hmemb.asp

To find the text of the regulations & submit comments, do the following:

1) Go to this website:
http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main
2) Use the "Keyword or ID" search box, and type in the document's ID:
VA-2007-NCA-0008-0001


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